Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Twelfth meeting of marine observation and data expert group - summary

Published on: Sun, 20/03/2011 - 16:21
Table of Contents

    This was the twelfth meeting of the Marine Observation and Data Network Expert Group. The main subjects covered were data needs of offshore renewable energy and of coastal morphology.

    Agenda and presentations

    Those present were:




    Hermanni Backer

    Anna  Cheilari


    Jean-Marie Beckers

    Trine Christiansen

    Environment (agency)

    Sükrü Besiktepe

    Raf Deroo

    Maritime Affairs

    Jean-François Bourillet

    Waddah  Saab

    Research and Innovation

    Peter Burkill

    Iain  Shepherd

    Maritime Affairs

    Simon Claus

    Ron Van Erck


    Franciscus Colijn



    Hans Dahlin



    Gerben de Boer

    Ana Aguado

    Friends of Supergrid

    Yves Desaubies

    Robert Arthur


    Nic Flemming

    Joe Corbett

    Mainstream Renewable Power

    Juliusz Gajewski

    Stehanie Good


    Robert Gatliff

    Ramesh Kaler

    Fluor Limited

    Neil Holdsworth

    Andy Kinsella

    Mainstream Renewable Power

    Ernesto Jardin

    Conor Okane


    Cherith Moses

    John Shaw

    Mainstream Renewable Power

    Glenn Nolan

    John  Sturman

    Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology

    Lesley Rickards

    Ad Van der Spek


    Dick Schaap

    Fernando Veloso Gomes

    University of Porto

    Angela Schäfer

    Thomas Walsh

    Dong Energy power

    Stefania Sparnocchia

    Luca Zaggia

    CNR, Venezia, Italy

    Terje Thorsnes



    Vasilis Valavanis



    Henry Vallius



    Christopher Zimmerman



    Offshore Wind Energy

    EU policy

    Ron van Erck from the Commission's Directorate General for Energy showed forecasts indicating  that 34% of energy from  the electricity sector (the other sectors are (1) heating and cooling and (2) transport), will be generated by  renewable energy by 2020 and that wind energy is the fastest growing component. The UK and Germany have the most ambitious plans but Netherlands and France are not far behind. Progress could be faster if planning procedures could be speeded up with fewer authorities involved.

    The European Supergrid

    The "Friends of the Supergrid" is a group of companies and organisations with a mutual interest in promoting the policy agenda for a European supergrid. This would link offshore energy supplies in the North Sea and Atlantic coast with distribution networks throughout Europe and thus help to transmit power generated in remote areas towards consumption and to balance fluctuating supply and demand. Ana Aguado said that considerable momentum is building up and that the "Friends" would issue a roadplan in 2011 for actions up to 2050.

    Renewable Energy and Marine Data

    John Shaw of Mainstream Renewable Power said that integrated sea information is needed if the emerging offshore wind energy market is to achieve its growth potential. He showed how rapidly the market is growing. 50% of new generation capacity (in terms of peak generation) is from wind or photovoltaics. Achieving targets will mean €5.8 trillion investment in offshore wind turbines by 2050 and €0.6 trillion in associated offshore transmission and distribution. Achieving the objectives of "marine knowledge 2020" – easy licencing, single points of access, discouraging cost-recovery from public providers, common standards" will help to reduce project risk.

    Better management of data is needed not only for planning, constructing and operating the turbines themselves but also for the ports that supply them and the transmission cables that they feed. This does not only include data collected by public bodies but also data from surveys from the operators themselves. They need to know parameters such as peak waves or silt movements. Shaw estimated that altogether the renewable energy industries would be spending something like one billion euro on collecting data by 2020. They need innovative technologies, the facility to store large amounts of data and, above all, standards – particularly in data ownership. In the UK data should be provided to the Crown estate but no standards have been defined.

    Johnm Sturman of the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology said that a working party on information technology had just been set up under the auspices of a offshore renewables special interest group. He said that data collection is driven by the needs of individual project developers and cross project consent requirements and undertaken by a variety of competing commercial consultancies or survey companies operating under no cross industry guidelines and often driven by cost

    MODEG pointed out that the SIMORC project had aimed to promote data sharing for the offshore oil industry but, although some progress had been made, there is no lasting legacy.

    MODEG felt that given the importance and urgency of the topic, the next meeting of 8 June 2011 should consider the matter further.

    Shortly after the meeting Shaw indicated that Mainstream were close to implementing a multi-channel instrumentation platform for our 6 GW Hornsea offshore project con sisting of a free-standing tower for a MetMast with additional instrumentation to measure vibration, foundation movement, etc. He appealed to MODEG to suggest instruments that could be added that did not incur excessive costs or effort.

    In the next two weeks Mainstream Renewable Energy will provide a preliminary list of the parameters that are needed for planning, constructing and operating the plants.

    Coastal Morphology

    Geology and archaeology show us that coastlines are not static and that ancient harbours are now far inland or submerged beneath the waves. Humans have traditionally adapted to these changes by moving their activities to more appropriate locations. But the increasing value of fixed infrastructure, housing and commercial property along the coast as well as the capacity of modern technology to hold back an encroaching sea mean that retreat is not the only option. It is the job of coastal engineers to plan the most appropriate strategy. A selection of these strategies were presented to MODEG.

    The Atlantic Coast

    Fernando Veloso Gomes said that various strategies were implemented along the Atlantic. The ANCORIM (Atlantic network for coastal risk management) project showed that coast, land planning, retreat, buffer zones, dune protection, artificial sand nourishment, by‐pass systems, groins, seawalls, dykes, geotextile, cliff protection, public education were all being used but that the effectiveness of each was at best not proven. He said that more data, particularly of economic value of coastlines would help but even then how can we quantify the value of a scenic beauty?

    The Atlantic coast has strong wind and waves which might be useful for renewable energy but pose challenges for coastal engineers. The main data needs are local morphological features, longitudinal and transverse sediment transport, sediment balance for different time scales, river sediment fluxes, extreme wave event, water levels, wave run-up and overtopping, local currents including estuarine.

    In some areas the bathymetry needs to be monitored four times a year. Hydrographic agencies survey the depth regularly but only near harbours. Sea-level rise is less important than sediment transport but should be checked every five years. A LIDAR survey of all coastal areas would be useful.

    The North Sea

    Unlike the Atlantic, output from rivers plays a relatively small part in the sediment balance. Left to itself the Dutch coast would lose six million cubic metres of sand per year. Ad van der Spek showed how the Netherlands was compensating for human and natural pressures on the coastline by depositing 12 million cubic metres of sand, mostly from the bottom of the North Sea onto the coast.

    Adaptive management is used. Thus rather than sticking to rigid long-term planning, the coastline is monitored for relative sea-level rise and sand replenished where necessary. Some of this is carefully put in place to reinforce dunes but some is also deposited in a €70 million artificial promontory - a "sand engine". It is then left to the currents, winds and waves to distribute the sand

    Some of MODEG wondered whether there was enough sand in the North Sea to keep the Netherlands safe. Van der Spek was confident that there was, at least for the next 100 years. A sea-level rise of one and a half metres, which is more than double the forecast from the intergovernmental panel for climate change for the next century, does not pose a threat.

    The Mediterranean

    Luca Zaggia presented work on the Mediterranean. He said that handing responsibility for coastal management over to regional authorities in Italy had weakened efforts to understand and mitigate the impact of coastal change. There is very little sharing of information on river flow and a general lack of information on sediment transport so without the basic tools making sediment budget is very difficult. Without detailed near shore bathymetry, sediment fluxes and beach profile surveys, it is hard to plan the most appropriate remedial action against increasing coastal erosion.

    He also highlighted the problem of salt intrusion into the aquifer caused partly by (1) land subsidence due to lack of sediment in rivers and the channeling of estuaries behind levees and the consequent reduction in deposition after flooding and (2) partly by the abstraction of groundwater for irrigation. The combination of salt intrusion and subsidence is severely threatening the integrity of the environment in sedimentary coastal areas and we need to better understand the importance of these onshore processes .


    Cherith Moses presented the work of the English Strategic Coastal Monitoring Programme. A strategic regional coastal monitoring programme for 1000 km of coastline involving 31 Local Authority and Environment Agency partners in south-east England started in 2002. The programme, which is grant-aided by the department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs aims to provide a monitoring system that delivers strategic shoreline management, coastal defence strategies, operational management of coastal protection and flood defence.  In December 2008 a project board for the national monitoring programme was established to develop and implement the programme from 2011 onwards. It will provide bathymetric surveys, topographic surveys, aerial surveys, LIDAR surveys, ecological mapping, hydrodynamic data collection and analytical services.

    more details can be found on the web-site of the Southeast Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme


    The needs of coastal enmgineers for data will be considered in the next round of tenders for the European Marine Observation and Data Network. A draft list of parameters that would be required for an effective monitoring of coasts has been prepared by Nic Flemming. Comments are invited.

    Interim Assessment of European Marine Observation and Data Network

    As part of the interim assessment of the European Marine Observation and Data Network, the MRAG consultancy is testing how well the portals developed under the ongoing preparatory actions meet expectations. They need to assess user friendliness, gauge re-usability of the data and determine how well the portals have overcome legal obstaclesThe contractors reported that:

    1. Most of the biological data are freely available to users. The portal is easy to navigate but the search functions could be extended (for instance to search by sea-basin or Member State waters) The geographical division is by IHO area. It is difficult to manipulate the data at a sub-basin level.
    2. The majority of chemistry data are unrestricted or require a SEADATANET licence. This does not impose access or re-use conditions but does require users to register. Work is ongoing to assess the re-usability of data in standard Geographical Information System or statistical analysis tools.
    3. Most of the raw bathymetric data from the hydrography portal was subject to usage restrictions but the digital terrain model was easy to download and process.
    4. The geology portal was different from the others in that no raw data was accessible. Furthermore since access is obtained through the more general OneGeology portal, it can be hard to find the marine layers.
    5. Data from the physical habitats portal was relatively easy to download and manipulate but some metadata are missing.

    MODEG made the following observations:

    1. MODEG felt that the issue of compatibility of data with standard software could be assessed further. The SeaDataNet ODV format is a plain ASCII file which can be loaded into any system, including excel, matlab etc without problem.
    2. reproducibility/traceability - to reproduce someone's analysis one need to be able to extract the exact same data set, is it possible with the present systems ?
    3. Data consistency. Using different names for the smae species (Horse mackerel, Trachurus trachurus) gives different results.
    4. It is true that the geology portal was different from the others in that no raw data was accessible'. But  real raw data (echograms, sample and other groundtruthing data) in most cases is not available. All data for the only geology map layer assessed (substrate) is based on some 200+ maps, many of them old and in hard copy. Which in practice means that some of them are from the (1950'ies,) 1960'ies, 1970'ies, 1980ies .... and the geological interpretation has been done years, decades, or perhaps half a century ago. Old warm paper echograms of those times have turned white, samples have been thrown away, the geologists have retired, died..... so the raw data has 'faded away'. Are the old maps then raw data? No, as interpreted maps can not be considered as raw data. Raw data has thus in many cases been lost years or decades ago. Another question is if the old maps should be accessible, but they are not raw data. The access of them could though be discussed.

    An interim report will be delivered on 4 April 2011. It will be passed to MODEG for consideration.

    Financial support for marine knowledge 2011-2013

    The Commission's proposal for a Regulation to support maritime policy in 2011-2013 is being discussed by Council and Parliament. The Commission hopes that the Regulation will be adopted in summer of 2011.

    The proposal has also been discussed in a specially convened meeting of the Member States Expert Group for maritime policy. Their main message was that the commission should ensure that all the initiatives of the Different Directorates General of the Commission be properly coordinated.

    Next meeting

    The next meeting of the marine Observation and Data Expert Group will be on 7-8 June 2011. The following one will be in September. The secretariat will shortly ask Members to indicate their availability.